Apron history, we’d argue, should be split into two parts, just like the Gregorian calendar: B.H. (before Hedley & Bennett) and A.H. (after Hedley & Bennett).
If you’re not familiar with Hedley & Bennett, it’s a Los Angeles-based company that produces the gold standard for kitchen attire. It began in 2012 as a kitchen workwear solution when founder Ellen Bennett grew tired of working in restaurant kitchens with aprons and uniforms that were not just devoid of personality, but also prone to falling apart.
In response, Bennett began hand-making durable garments designed to withstand the rigors of the kitchen, which soon gained the attention of chef luminaries from David Chang to Rick Bayless.
Today, many of Hedley & Bennett’s garments are handmade at its 17,000-square foot facility in downtown Los Angeles. Take a tour of the what is sure to be the most unusual garment factory you’ve ever seen, and check out our exclusive Hedley & Bennett aprons, now available online and in stores.
This is not your typical factory; inside, there’s a tree house, a slide, a swing and a zip line, in case anyone needs a change of pace. And everybody who stops by headquarters gets a hug and an ice cream.
The Apron HQ, as it’s called, also includes a showroom, where the company often hosts events, like a collaboration dinner between The FeedFeed and Simply Organic, or Hedley & Bennett’s School of Hustle with Instagram.
Everything that’s handcrafted from start to finish has to begin somewhere. At The Apron HQ, it begins in one room where fabric is rolled out to be cut. The factory offers more than 400 fabric options, like top-grade American canvas, raw Japanese selvedge denim, and European linens, all stain- and wash-tested.
No apron detail is too small, and everything is built to last. As a direct result of Ellen’s experiences working in restaurants—“two of three aprons I would wear every day had dangling pockets because they had ripped,” she says— all of Hedley & Bennett’s 64 pocket combinations are reinforced for extra durability. The aprons also boast adjustable straps and brass hardware accents.
The team at H&B has grown one employee at a time. (Above, Ellen collaborates with team members.) Just earlier this year, the company added an in-house sample sewing team.
The team takes apron naming seriously, although not too seriously—the aim is to choose names that are playful, unique and unisex, so everything stays approachable. “Every apron is named after food, places, people or things we love,” Ellen says.
Ellen is constantly experimenting with new ideas. “I’ve been cooking up something really different,” she tells us. “It’s got the functionality of an apron, it’s reversible, but you wear it on top of your clothes—and it’s technically not for the kitchen, per se.”
See our exclusive Hedley & Bennett aprons, now available online and in stores.